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July 28, 2022 0 Comments

What’s the difference between synthetic and naturally grown marijuana?

While containing similar properties, there are organic strains of marijuana and synthetically created or “fake” varieties. Here, we explain the difference. 

Marijuana is a plant that grows naturally in the wild and is cultivated for its medicinal properties and for recreational use. The naturally occurring terpenophenolic compounds found in the marijuana plant are referred to as phytocannabinoids and are found mostly in the Cannabis Sativa plant. Naturally grown cannabis has been used for medicinal and recreational purposes for thousands of years.

Synthetic cannabinoid products were produced and sold in herbal smoking blends as legal marijuana replacements. The products were packaged and branded to suggest a similarity to the effects of marijuana but, because the materials are inert herbal mixtures doused with synthetic cannabinoids, their appearance, taste, and, smell are different. Synthetic creations actually contain no cannabis and should be avoided. Street names include “Spice” or “K2” and are strictly manmade. The CDC warns to avoid the use of these “fakes” as they can be life-threatening. 

Compounds in marijuana
Figure 1 displays the structures of the main cannabinoids found in organically grown marijuana. While there are well over 100 naturally occurring cannabinoids, these are the most commonly recognized. 

What is Cannabis Distillation?

Cannabis distillation is a process that involves extraction, winterization, decarboxylation, and distillation.  It starts with the naturally grown marijuana plant and distills it to allow maximum purity and content. Once cannabis is extracted from its raw plant form, it can be distilled, resulting in a purer product with a CBD or THC content of more than 90%.

The process begins with the harvest of the plant followed by extraction of the active compounds from the raw plant matter. These extraction methods are either physical — including sieving and rosin pressing — or chemical, using solvents or diluents to break down plant matter. This results in an unfiltered substance (often called “crude oil”) with CBD and THC purity just above 50%. Post-extraction processing includes purification of the “crude oil” which eliminates contaminates and byproducts. Purification includes “winterization” which subjects the ‘crude oil’ to very low temperatures, separating the extraneous fatty byproducts like lipids, waxes, and chlorophyll so they can be removed. This is followed by decarboxylation which exposes the remaining concentrate to sustained heat in order to activate the cannabinoids it contains.

The final process of distilling the extract uses vacuum pressure, heat, and evaporation to separate terpenes and cannabinoids. This separation doesn’t occur until the process reaches a boiling point. THC and CBD have different boiling points for extraction. Distillates can be used singly or combined – for instance, by mixing the high-THC distillate with high-CBD concentrate – to activate the entourage effect.

Once this step is completed, the extracts are ready for consumption. Although for CBD extracts, the concentrate might go through one more process to remove any traces of THC from the extract. CBD extracts that undergo this process are called Broad Spectrum.

Pros of Cannabis Distillation

If you’ve ever been exposed to marijuana smoke, you’re familiar with the pungent and very unique smell. And, if you’ve partaken yourself, you know it also has a very unique taste that can only be described as “weedy”. By using distillation, the smell and taste are gone, leaving room for a more pleasant olfactory experience that allows patients and recreational users to use topicals, cosmetics, edibles, vapes, and other forms of delivery without that “bad after taste.”

Cannabis Distillation PROS:

  1. Provides a higher potency
  2. Creates a pure concentrate
  3. Is odorless, tasteless, and colorless
  4. Offers versatility for product

If you have questions about medical marijuana or how it might be added to your treatment plan, please contact The Healing Clinics for more information. We are here to help!


Nahar L, Uddin SJ, Alam MA, Sarker SD. Extraction of naturally occurring cannabinoids: an update. Phytochemical Analysis. 2021;32:228–241

What is the significance of distillation in cannabis production? Published May 15th, 2020.

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